Normally, I don’t won’t watch any reality shows when I’m home unless simultaneously doing something productive, like laundry or chopping vegetables. (Same deal applies to the gym: It’s totally okay to check out Khloe & Lamar if you are running six miles on the treadmill.) Last night, however, I made an exception for the premiere of Fashion Star because, beyond the competition, crazy characters and celebrity cameos, it’s about shopping. And I really love shopping.
Basically, it works like this: Twelve designers, both established and starting out, are given weekly guidelines to create a specific type of item. (Last night’s theme was a "signature piece.") Then, the mini collections—usually three riffs on the same style—are shown onstage for two judging panels, "the buyers" and "the mentors." The mentors—which include Jessica Simpson, John Varvatos and Nicole Richie—offer advice to the contestants before the three buyers—who work for Saks Fifth Avenue, Macys and H&M—decide if they would like to place an order. If any of the stores put an offer on the table, the purchased piece will be available to buy online immediately after the show and in-store the next day. (Yes, this means that H&M is kinda/sorta offering e-commerce in the United States!) Designers who make a sale will be safe from elimination while the rest risk going home. At the end of the show, the mentors "save" one person from the buyers’ bottom three, before they make the final cut. By the end of the season, one winner will receive a contract with all three mega-stores, valued at $6 million.
While there are plenty of viewer-pleasing gimmicks (Go-go dancers and Lady Gaga music to show three simple caftans? Really?) as well as biting commentary (Simpson tells one rude contestant that she’d like to "slap him across the face"), the overarching results were more realistic than you’d expect. Sure, most burgeoning designers don’t sell their lines with a live audience watching, but the store executives brought an interesting business-related perspective to what would otherwise be another generic fashion competition. From the 14 presentations, only six orders were placed by the stone-faced buyers, one of whom remarked, "you can’t sell personality on a hanger." Also, it’s fascinating to see how the clothing has evolved during its journey from the catwalk to stores: some of the pieces look much better after production.
I’m not ready to buy anything (yet!), but I’m definitely intrigued enough to tune in this season. Watch this space every Wednesday morning for my weekly Fashion Star report and in the meantime, click through the slideshow below to see the best pieces from last night and where you can buy them.
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